Last week was my once a year, 3-day event for boutique photographers, Go Boutique Live.
And this year I gave out a RECORD breaking number of awards to boutique photographers who are succeeding in this business model.
These award winners sold over $5.2 million in photography in 2021!
During a global pandemic!
We give awards for everything from earning your first one thousand dollar client (a Julie) to raising $1k for charity, getting a single $5,000 order, to reaching $10k or $50k in sales for the year.
But the highest honor a photographer can earn is the Yay award for $100k, $200k or $300k or more in sales of portraits from January – December.
This year we had 20 $100k Yay award winners – the most ever.
And so many first time award winners.
So how did they do it?
This is part 1 of a 2-part podcast series where these incredible photographers share their advice for reaching $100k in a boutique portrait photography business.
Do Your Numbers
My number one piece of advice to hit $100,000 in your business this year is to do your numbers.
Break it down by month.
What do you need to do each month, for 12 months, to make $100,000?
Keep a running total as your month goes.
As something comes in, I’d write it down and total it out.
I knew exactly where I was at for each month by doing this.
The benefits of doing that are knowing whether or not you need to add another session to hit your goal, or if you need to make a more elaborate sales plan.
Maybe you need a client to buy an extra 16×24 canvas to get you to your goal.
You’ll also be able to look back at a month where you didn’t hit your goal and assess where you went astray to prevent it from happening again.
Nothing is worse than getting to October or November and realizing you are short of my goal.
Then you try to cram in everything possible before the end of the year so you can try and reach your goal.
You have no life, you’re miserable, burn out, and you hate yourself.
I would also say to consider over-projecting.
If you want to make $100,000, project $120,000 because sometimes life gets in the way.
Making Money Changed My Level Of Confidence
To make $100,000, I changed my level of confidence in myself.
Which in return, allowed me to double my prices.
Previously, I was very bashful about what I did for a profession.
Owning what I do and owning that I’m the best newborn photographer in Charlottesville, that was the biggest change.
Confidence in your work, in your worth, and what you do allows you to unashamedly charge a livable wage because, gosh darn it, I am worth it as a boutique photographer.
In-Person Sales Consultation is a Game Changer
The one big change I made in my portrait photography business this year that helped me reach the six figure mark was definitely adding in the in person consultation.
Being able to meet with my clients in person before even booking their session made a huge difference and it definitely helped increase my sales.
It’s so important to make sure your clients understand the entire boutique process upfront.
It gives you a chance to meet them before the session and establish that personal connection.
It’s also where you discuss pricing in depth with them, and make sure that they understand the investment and find out what they are looking to purchase.
Since I decided that I wanted to up the experience for my clients and schedule consultations to meet with them before, it gave me the perfect opportunity to have them get to know me, which I think really helped them feel more comfortable when it came time for their session.
The other great thing about it is I actually am able to show them products in person.
They are able to see the quality of the products.
Before I was doing the in-person consultation I would just run through everything over the phone and I would get a couple that would book here and there, or they would come in to do their ordering session and be completely sticker shocked.
After that it was just like a light bulb went off.
This is what I needed to be doing, this was the missing step in my process and this is what I needed to be able to book more clients as well as raise my sales average.
This 100% helped me grow my business last year and is now something that I would just never think of skipping in my process now.
Creating a Price List with Prices that Make You Uncomfortable
My biggest difference since my business reached $100,000 in annual revenue is that I’ve priced my services at a level that I’m not comfortable with.
In other words, when I first started I didn’t have a price list.
I was just sort of winging it.
So having that firm price list, using the markups available that Sarah suggests, pretty soon you get used to saying, this is a $2,700 portrait.
And when you say it with conviction, your customers just know that it is actually a $2,700 portrait and they want it.
Pretty soon your average sales will go up, you’ll be working with a better clientele, and every quarter when you check your revenue, you’ll see that you’re well on the way to at least $100,000 for this year.
Getting Out Of Your Own Way
My number one piece of advice for getting to $100K this year in my portrait photography business would be to get out of my own way and listen to Sarah’s advice.
I’ve been a student of Sarah’s for years.
And while I did many programs and loved the boutique model, I was kind of one foot in because I still had prices that were too low.
I was choosing elements and words, but not putting it all together.
When I was at Go Boutique Live in 2020, I heard another photographer saying that it worked for her when she started doing all the steps that Sarah laid out.
And I realized she was right.
I was picking and choosing what was comfortable and not necessarily doing it all.
For instance, I would mention my pricing somewhat in that first phone call or in a consultation, but I would kind of bury it in the conversation and not be upfront about it.
As soon as I got more comfortable with my pricing and following all the steps, things worked so much better.
Not to say that I’m still not working on it, it’s still a work in progress and there’s still room for improvement.
I’m looking forward to improving my averages this year and improving my client’s experience all together.
Another thing that was a big help for me in 2021 was doing Pooch Playoffs in the first quarter.
I raised over $12,000 for charity from that event, which was phenomenal and really helped start my year off on such a great foot that that gave me momentum for the year.
I’m looking forward to just building on this past year and having an amazing 2022.
Changing Small Things To Make A Big Impact
One of the things that we decided to do when our studio was closed with the mandatory state closure was to take that time to educate ourselves and come out of all of this better than we were before.
My goal was always to hit $400,000 in sales and that would’ve been between volume work and portrait work.
I thought that I had fairly decent portrait sale averages when it came to our seniors, families and our children.
But, I felt like I plateaued over the years and no matter what I did, we couldn’t get those sales averages to go up any higher.
We were already doing in person sales, so that was not anything new to me.
But one of the small things that we changed was how we presented the images during the in-person sales appointment.
In the past, we created videos showing the portraits in the order that they were photographed.
One of the small things that Sarah pointed out was rearranging how they were seen.
I saw the biggest increase in sales with my seniors.
Changing up the variety of how they were seen in that presentation made it so easy that at the end when the slideshow was over, everybody would just say how much they loved their portraits.
About half of our seniors last year went with our top package, which is about $4,000!
And we had a senior order that was $6,000.
That little change was a game changer for us.
And it helped get those portrait sales averages right where I wanted them to be.
For the first time in 17 years, I hit my goal.
So a piece of advice that I would give for anyone trying to hit $100,000 is obviously in person sales.
I can’t stress enough how strongly I believe in that.
Because the year that I originally implemented in person sales, I had increased my gross annual sales by $100,000.
I feel like the small changes, as scary as they might be sometimes, make a huge impact on your overall numbers at the end of the year.